Tag Archives: Shojo Beat

Second Chance Manga

Going digital can be a big decision, especially if you are like me, and still like to hold paper in your hands. But there are times when buying digital is an advantage, as is when a publisher, like Viz, has a big backlist of titles that are lengthy or difficult to find. One thing you can say about Viz, they have been working hard to make their backlist titles available again in digital. With Viz having their 20% off holiday sale, now is a good time to catch up on some older titles you may have missed out on.

Dragon Ball 1 bigViz really made a name for itself with Shonen Jump and bringing over many of the well-known and loved titles from that magazine. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is probably the most beloved series to come out of Weekly Shonen Jump. The first half is action and comedy, while the second half all action that set the standard for fighting shonen manga for years to come. It is 42 volumes, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting? Rurouni Kenshin was another series that helped establish shonen manga in the US. This title brought both men and women, with it’s heavy action, historical backdrop and hints of romance that is realized in the end. It is 28 volumes over 3 story arcs. Yu Yu Hakusho came on the heels of Rurouni Kenshin in the world of anime on Cartoon Network, and was one of the debut titles in the US Shonen Jump. It is a mix of supernatural and action, with a punk lead and an ensemble cast to please any taste. It’s shorter at only 19 volumes. Shaman King was another debut title in Shonen Jump, and is also a supernatural action series. It veers more into the ghost and spirits side of the supernatural, and has a health dose of comedy to balance the more serious action. It’s a healthy 32 volumes.

Hikaru no Go 1Hikaru no Go is a very different kind of shonen, as it’s battles take place on the Go board instead of an arena. It’s smart and intense writing matched with beautiful art keeps is a must for any gaming manga fan. It’s 23 volumes and worth every one. Black Cat is an action title that skirts the supernatural, but is more about being true to yourself and following the path you’ve made despite where others think you should go. It’s the shortest, at only 20 volumes. Almost all of these titles are complete at vizmanga.com, except for Black Cat, and Yu Yu Hakusho which has been coming out for past several weeks and making the top 5 titles every week.

Basara 1Viz isn’t one to ignore the lovers or drama and romance. Over the years they have brought out a lot of shojo titles. Basara is a historical title that thrusts a young woman into the role of her brother to protect the oppressed while gaining allies against her enemies. A late 90s-early 2000s title, volumes for this series are hard to come by, and later volumes can go for big bucks on eBay or Amazon. This digital release puts the series back in a more reasonable price range. It is 27 volumes. Boys Over Flowers is another early shojo title. It is a poor girl against the elite boys story, though the girl is no shrinking violet and stands up to the boys. It been made into live dramas all around Asia and even has an adaptation coming out in America. It is a whopping 37 volumes. From Far Away is a big hit with librarians, who like to recommend it for tween girls looking for action and romance. It features a girl from modern-day being swept away into a fantasy world of adventure. She is rescued by a boy who holds a great evil that she can unleash, binding the pair together. It is only 14 volumes. Fushigi Yugi is the title that started the girls swept to a fantasy world plot and is often the one most other titles are compared to. A teenage girls is pulled through a book to a world where she is believed to a priestess to one of the four gods and must find her seven warriors to save the kingdom before she can go home. It is available in the VizBIG edition in digital, which was a high quality three-in-one release. It only 6 volumes, but are double the price.

Here is Greenwood 1Hana Kimi is a girl disguises as a boy to get close to the boy of her dreams at an all boys school, and has to keep her gender a secret. It’s got lots of humor using the gender-bending a lot, though is more a romance than comedy. It is 23 volumes. Here is Greenwood is another cross dressing all boys school story, but this time, it’s a boy cross dressing as a girl. The boy lead is trying to escape heartache at home, and is thrown into the craziness that is Greenwood dormitory. It is another early aughts series that can be difficult to find volumes of, though it ended after only 9. Please Save My Earth is a rare sci-fi/romance story. A group of teenagers start having the same, recurring dreams of being alien scientists observing the Earth. It deals with love and fate and is another title that is difficult to get volumes of. It is 21 volumes. Red River is a historical romance for the older teen to young adult. It features another modern girl drawn to past to fulfill a destiny, but this time, the past is ancient Mesopotamia, which is in conflict with Egypt. It’s romance is more mature and throws plenty of action. It’s 28 volumes.

There are so many more titles available at Vizmanga.com, but these are taste of older titles that you might not have heard or known about. Many of these are from the 90s and the art might seem a little dated, but the stories are strong, with some of them being the basis for whole new sub-genres. There’s a lot her to take in, so take your time in checking them out. They all feature first full chapters to give you an idea what the stories and art is like. The 20% off sale lasts until December 31, 2013, so don’t take too long. But definitely give some of these titles a try.

 

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 11: Skip Beat Volume 1-11

Manga Dome header

This week I check out some news stories, see what’s new at Vizmanga.com and review the first 11 volumes of Skip Beat for this month’s Manga Movable Feast!

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 11: Skip Beat Volume 1-11

Oresama Teacher Volume 10-11

The Public Morals Club has been infiltrated by the Student Council as ninja Yui joins the club to spy on them. But with his reasons for switching being done in secret, not everyone on the Student Council is as understanding. It could be the end of Public Morals Club if the club can’t get a stamp of approval from the Student Council Auditor. Then a member of the Student Council, Ayabe challenges Mafuyu to a one-on-one battle, where the unthinkable happens. Mafuyu loses.

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s been 5 volumes since I last read Oresama Teacher. I’ve enjoyed the series for the most part, but I’ve never been so enamored that I wanted to do anything more than just read it. These two volumes fall into the same category. A lack of Takaomi and more emphasis on Mafuyu, Hayasaka, and new club member Yui did make for some fun reading, but not enough to bring the series up that extra notch.

Yui has been having trouble gaining the trust of Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and with the club needed the stamp of approval from the auditor, this seems like the perfect opportunity to get it. The only obstacle is Wakana Hojo, the auditor who isn’t too happy with Yui’s  apparent defection. I liked the Auditor story a lot, mostly because of Hojo and Yui and the unspoken feelings between them. Hojo and Yui have known each other since Middle School, and Hojo has liked Yui, but Yui is completely clueless about his own feelings let alone Hojo’s. It takes Mafuyu verbally hitting Yui with a 2×4 for him to at least start to understand that everything is not black and white, especially when it comes to feelings. Hayasaka also turned out to be the hero of this volume as his studious ways allowed him to create an activity log for the club that, along with the arrival of Super Bun gets the club their stamp.

Then, Mafuyu is challenged by Reito Ayabe, another member of the Student Council, and loses. It’s her first time losing, as far as she can remember. This was my favorite chapter in volume 11. Seeing Mafuyu shaken up and trying to deal with her loss was a good development for her. She had to stand up and face her fear. Ayabe seems like a jerk at first, but Mafuyu has a habit of disarming people, which she does to him over lunch where she finds his home cooked meal so much better than her convenience store lunch. Their second battle goes differently, as Mafuyu continues by telling him she just wants to get to know him, and wins through words instead of force. I hope Ayabe becomes a friend to the Public Morals Club. I rather like him and his odd affliction.

The short chapters that precede or end the main chapters weren’t bad either. I enjoyed seeing Hojo’s past with Yui and Hayabusa, the Student Club President that explains her feelings for Yui. And the Christmas chapter with Hayasaka and Mafuyu as Super Bun was fun too. I like that Hayasaka sees Super Bun as a hero and bud, and not a romantic figure. Hayasaka’s hero worship of Super Bun is too funny,and it would get really weird if it went anywhere else.

The one think I didn’t care for in these volumes are the continued hints that there might be feelings between Mafuyu and Takaomi. Mafuyu blushes deeply when Takaomi tries to put her hair in a pony tail to help her Super Bun disguise. Then Takaomi lets his guard down slightly when he tries to wrap Mafuyu’s arm after her fight with Ayabe. I really dislike Takaomi’s manipulation of Mafuyu and find him repulsive. Mafuyu really deserves better than him, and has better suitors in Hayasaka, and her old 2nd, Kangawa.

Oresama Teacher manages to pull off to fun volumes, but their re-readability is too limited for me to let them take up precious bookshelf space. As fun as they are, the characters aren’t compelling enough despite Mafuyu and Hayasaka being a good couple to watch.

Review copies provided by publisher.

 

Strobe Edge Volume 1

What is love, anyway? Ninako Kinoshita’s friends tell her it’s one thing, but Ninako wonders what this mysterious feeling is. When she meets Ren Ichinose, the handsome, enigmatic guy that all the girls worship, her life takes an unexpected turn. With just a few words and a smile, he changes her world. Ninako’s friend Daiki throws her for a loop when he expresses romantic interest in her. She cares for him, but can she return his feeling? As she tries to short out her confusion, Ninako realizes that there are many different facets of love–strange and wonderful sides…

By Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Falling in love for the first time is a strange, wonderful and sad feeling all at the same time. Watching Ninako slowly realize that the feelings she’s starting to experience are those of first love was a fun and delightful experience.

Strobe Edge starts out seeming like the typical love triangle. Ninako is a first year in high school, and a little gullible. She is also completely clueless about the feeling of her best friend since elementary school, Daiki. Her chance encounter with the school’s “idol prince”, Ren, seems innocent at first. But, as she gets to know him, and sees the real him outside of school, it’s hard for her not to have feelings for him, even knowing he already has a girlfriend, or Daiki’s true feelings, doesn’t chance her mind.

And I really can’t blame her, since Ren does seem to be a really good guy. He buys Ninako a new cell phone charm when he accidentally steps on it. He helps her on the train when she is being harassed by another passenger, and misses his stop and walks her home after she has hurt her ankle at school. He even gives up his seat on the train for a pregnant woman, telling he’s about to get off even though his stop is still a ways away. Daiki doesn’t seem like a bad guy either though. He’s the loyal best friend who waited too long to tell Ninako how he felt, though it might not have mattered, since Ninako just doesn’t feel the same way.

I really enjoyed watching Ninako change little by little. Her starting to appreciate girly things, like the butterfly charm Ren gets her, and just thinking about painting her nails and being glad they looked nice as Ren helped her home. I also liked how her feelings for Ren grew slowly and weren’t the usual instant love that so many romance manga like to do. She starts out just wanting to show her friends that they take the same train, but her awkwardness endears her to him and she is even graced with a smile that he never seems to have at school. Even her stalker-ish behavior when she waits at the train station to see if he really has a girlfriend wasn’t creepy. She just had to know, and even knowing doesn’t change her.

The fact that she doesn’t change fundamentally is what really makes her a good character. She doesn’t try to be someone else for Ren. Her changes come from her feelings. The volume had a nice twist at the end with Daiki, and Ninako reaching out to Ren even though she knows what his answer will be was a really sweet moment. You really can’t help but root for Ninako and that is what really made me like this title. I cared about Ninako, and what happened to her, especially since she knows this is just her first love and wants to cherish the feeling even if it means breaking heart as well.

Strobe Edge is starting out to be a sweet romance. While I do hope that the triangle between Ninako, Ren and Daiki continues, I really just want to follow Ninako on her journey of discovering love. I actually think following all of them would be interesting. The art is well done, and different enough from a lot the other romance titles that it should stick out in a good way. I really looking forward to more volumes of this series. If you are a fan of love and not just romance, you should too.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Otomen Volume 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Asuka Masamune enjoys the girly things in life, such as sewing and cooking. But due to a traumatic event that happened with his father when he was young, he can’t ever let his mother know about this side of himself. In fact, he thinks he can’t let anyone know, and so he plays the part of a stoic manly man, excelling in kendo and reading Bushido. But there is one person in his class who does know about the real Asuka; Juta Tachibana. He is a mangaka, and has created a popular series using Asuka as the model for his female lead. In order to further his manga, he encourages Asuka get closer to Ryo, a new girl at their school that Asuka has fallen for. As his relationship with Ryo slowly develops, Asuka meets other otomen and learns he isn’t alone.

By Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

When Otomen first came out, I wasn’t impressed by the premise or the preview that ran in Shojo Beat at the time. I also didn’t care for Kanno’s previous title Blank Slate, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for this new one. A podcast review convinced me to re-evaluate and give the series a try. I’m glad I did. Otomen is cute and funny, and is more comedy than romance.

What really makes Otomen is the characters. When Asuka is first introduced, he looks the part of the manly man. Strong and silent, dressed in this kendo robes, he looks like he could have stepped out of a shonen manga. And then he starts to fall for Ryo, and his true self comes out. I love the scene with him after going on a “girly” spending spree and bringing home all kinds of crafty things and shojo manga. His despair over this is made more funny when he puts together a stuffed bear without really realizing his was doing it! I really enjoy the role reversal that Kanno has created with Asuka. He is very much the shojo lead, as all his inner thoughts and turmoil are shared with the reader. He even blushes a lot like most shojo leads. I really love Asuka’s dichotomy of still being a man while having all of these traditionally female hobbies. If only more men could be like him.

Surrounding Asuka is quite a cast of characters. Ryo, his love interest, complements him well. She can’t cook, or clean, and is hopeless at sewing and crafts. She has a masculine outlook, and though she says she prefers manly men, she doesn’t mind his feminine ways. She often takes the traditional male role such as being the brave one in a haunted house, or riding in on a white horse to rescue him from an arranged marriage. Juta Tachibana is a bit of a playboy, and has been orchestrating a lot of Asuka and Ryo’s relationship for the sake of his shojo manga, “Love Chick.” He will go to any length to get good material for his manga, including playing a rival for Ryo’s affections, breaking and entering Asuka’s potential bride, and staying outside the old school building in a blizzard so Asuka and Ryo can be alone in a romantic Christmas moment. He is also adament about not letting his real identity get out, and is even willing to dress up as a woman to keep it secret. I think in a lot of ways, Juta is the first fellow Otoman that Asuka meets.

And there are more otomen out there. Asuka’s self-proclaimed kendo rival, Hajime Tonomine turns out to have a secret passion for makeup and giving women makeovers. They end up working together when they are asked to help out at a women’s event and don the costumes of members of the Harakiri Ronin Samurai Five, and then volunteer to give a makeover when the artist gets stuck in traffic. I love when manga references Tokusatsu shows, so I really enjoyed this chapter in volume 3, and was thrilled when they made a come back in volume 5. Then there’s Kitora Kurokawa, who loves flowers too much. He is very tall and since he doesn’t talk much is seen by the other girls as mysterious. His weakness is wanting to cover beautiful things in flowers, which includes Ryo, Asuka, Hajime and even Juta.

The story starts out focusing on Asuka and Ryo and Juta using them for his manga, but then shifts toward more with discovering more otomen. I’m glad the story did start to shift, because Asuka and Ryo’s relationship really wasn’t going anywhere by volume 3, so it really needed something more. But I did start to miss hearing about developments for Love Chick, and really enjoyed the chapter in volume 5 where Juta has to accept an award, and has to come up with a way to do with revealing he’s really a man as his editor wants, and he’s rescued by his idol mangaka. Kanno also does a good job of balancing Asuka’s two sides, the masculine and feminine. He can be really cute sometimes when he blushing, and others thinking he’ll make a good wife. But he’s still a man and it still comes through when he leaps to action to save Ryo from a bull, a bomb, or a little boy from falling out a window. Asuka is the ideal man.

Otomen is a great series, filled a lot of great characters and funny situations. It’s romantic comedy at its best, because it is so unconventional in its material. I look forward to reading more about Asuka, Ryo, Juta and the rest of the otomen. And since this title is available on Viz’s manga site, I can just right back in where I left off without overloading the bookshelf. If you want some light, fun reading, definitely pick this title up.

Wanted: Manga Movable Feast-Arrr!

Arr, it be that time o’ year again. Aye matey, it be Talk Like o’ Pirate Day! To shiver yer timbers, I be reviewin’ a pirate manga that also be fittin’ in ta da Movable Manga Feast this month. So grab yerself a bottle o’ rum ‘n find out about Wanted Arrrr…

In the Mediterranean at the end of the 17th century, former songstress Armeria disguises herself as a boy and boards the ship of the pirate Skulls–the man who kidnapped Luce, her first love. Captain Skulls is arrogant, violent, and a skirt chaser! And unfortunately for Armeria, he discovers she’s a woman…

By Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $8.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

My introduction to Hino’s work was through the serialization of her most current title Vampire Knight in Shojo Beat. I really didn’t care for it, so when this volume came out, I had little interest in it. But, curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it up. I am slightly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, but it is about as different from Vampire Knight as night is to day.

The thing I disliked most about Vampire Knight is the way drama oozed from every pore of every character. The characters in Wanted are the exact opposite. Armeria doesn’t just sit around bemoaning her loss or wait for Luce to come for her. She take the initiative, disguising herself as a man and joins different ships searching for the pirates that kidnapped him eight years ago. Armeria is spunky and headstrong. She is determined to remain on the ship with Skulls until she finds Luce, and she doesn’t let his barbs get her down.

Skulls, the pirate captain, tries to come off as a scoundrel and a ladies man, but he is essentially a good person. He saves Armeria several times, and only robs from nobles who take advantage of the people and then give the wealth back to them. He is like a pirate Robin Hood and his crew are his Merry Men. And it’s a motley crew of merry men at that. They are never formally introduced, but there are a few that are featured in the chapters. His first mate, Second, is a big, shirtless, bald black man who knows his captain all too well. Doc is an older man who like the father figure of the crew, and Fourth and Fifth, crewmen skilled in sailing and swordsmanship. The names aren’t very original, but they are all fun none the less.

There are three chapters about Armeria and Skulls, and a bonus chapter that takes place in Meiji Japan. I really enjoyed the pirate chapters. They were light and fun. There is swashbuckling, raiding, cannon fire, battles with the navy, and secret treasure; everything that makes pirate stories fun. I didn’t care so much for the bonus chapter. It has the same feel as the Wanted chapters, but it just didn’t work as well for me. It moved too fast for me to really believe it, though I did kind of like the characters.

The art is very Hino, with the girls having big eyes and the men all being bishonen. And the hair is everywhere. But I was fine with it in this volume. The characters were different and varied enough that it didn’t get on my nerves. It was to have a beard, dreadlocks and even no hair at all!

Wanted is a fun romp for a romantic pirate adventure. I liked the relationship between Arto (Armeria) and Skulls. I love that they are always at odds. Even though Skulls’ identity was pretty obvious, it’s reveal didn’t ruin the story. So matey, if ye be wantin’ some good pirate romance, be pickin’ up Wanted!

St. Dragon Girl Volumes 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Momoka Sendou (nicknamed “Dragon Girl”) and Ryuga Kou are childhood friends. Momoka is a martial artist, and Ryuga is a Chinese magic master who banishes demons. In order to increase his power, Ryuga calls on the spirit of a dragon to possess him, but the spirit enters Momoka instead. Now the two must unite forces and fight demons together!

By Natsumi Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

St. Dragon Girl is a title that has two things going for it. Dragons and a couple that denies their feelings for each other. While the second thing is a bit of a trope for shojo titles, I can’t help having a soft spot for their kind of relationship; the childhood friends who tease, bait and strike back.

The female lead of this story, Momoka, has a lot of tomboy traits. Her father is the head of a kenpo dojo, so she is constantly practicing, and is even an instructor. She will take on anyone who threatens her friends, spirits and demons, and even teachers! But she has one weakness; pandas. Ever since she received a stuffed panda as gift from Ryuga, she has loved them, and Ryuga as well. Momoka knows how she feels about Ryuga, but doesn’t want to tell him, thinking he’ll tease her and not return her feelings.

Ryuga, the male lead, comes from a family of Chinese magic masters, and is gifted in the arts as well. He is often being asked to tell fortunes, perform prayers or make charms. Where Momoka is more gung-ho and charging into a situation without thinking, Ryuga is the calm, thoughtful one. He is always having to protect his cousin Shuran, a gifted psychic that demons are always coming after. He comes to Momoka’s rescue as well, usually when her thoughtless gets her in over her head. He is constantly teasing Momoka, which can get him a fist or kick to the face, but he can sometimes counter with his spell Paper Army Formation made up of pandas. Ryuga can be serious at times, letting slip little comments that can be interpreted as his having feelings for Momoka too, but he usually denies them, or changes their meaning by the end of the chapter, to keep her from learning the truth; that he really does love her too.

And since they continue to deny their feelings, this leaves rooms for rivals for their affections to step in. Momoka get the most, starting with Ryuga’s cousin Kouryu, who tries to kidnap Momoka and take her back to China. He’s arrogant and egotistical, and I still didn’t like him ever after the explanation of his back story. Touya is another boy who has a crush on Momoka, but turns out to have a deeper secret. He ends up hanging around though, as thorn in Ryuga side. Even Saint Dragon, the dragon possessing Momoka has him moment of infatuation, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t stop Ryuga from still feeling jealous.

Ryuga has his suitors as well. Raika is a distant relative of Ryuga’s who wants to be his fiance. She ends up being friends with Momoka after she realizes the truth of Ryuga’s feelings for her. Akira is another new member of the Kendo club. She is a Onmyouji, as well as a competitor for Ryuga’s affections, though he doesn’t really acknowledge her beyond being a friend. She likes to use her magic to take over Momoka’s body and make it move to her will.

While I really like the ensemble of characters that have gathered through these five volumes, it’s the mythical creatures that keep appearing that really won me over. I love the dragons, and they are drawn so gorgeously and with such care! There’s also a phoenix that appears that is cute in human form, and beautiful in bird form, and a mermaid and cat demons. The variety of beasts is great and just as entertaining as the characters!

The stories are mostly stand alone at the beginning, and are fairly light. They mostly involve demons coming after Shuran, or school activities such as Kendo club or the school festival. As the series goes on though, it does start to get more serious and move into longer stories lasting more than one chapter, but Ryuga and Momoka’s relationship remains on the teeter-totter of admitting/denying their feelings.

St. Dragon Girl is a fairly light and fun romance. Matsumoto’s artwork is beautiful to look at (especially the dragons), and she uses a lot of great Chinese costuming, making the series another plus in my book. There is next to no drama, and the comedy is well-timed with the more serious moments. I can’t think of a single complaint I have about this series. Even the constant denial of the leads doesn’t bother me, but they have great chemistry, it wouldn’t matter to me if they ever got together or not. While the series is rated for teens, tweens will enjoy this series as well. Definitely read this series if you get the chance.

Hana-Kimi Volumes 1-3

Mizuki Ashiya is no slouch when it comes to a challenge. She’s a star of track and field at her high school, after all. So When she falls for fellow athlete Izumi Sano, she figures out an ingenious plan to get close to him. Now she’s moved to Japan, enrolled in the all-male high school Sano goes to, and becomes his roommate! How? She’s disguised herself as a boy! Whatever happens next, things are about to get seriously complicated!

By Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romantic comedy
Price: $14.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve tended to avoid gender-bending, or cross-dressing titles, because on the whole, they haven’t sounded interesting to me. A girl dressing up as a boy to go to the all-male school where her ideal mate goes seems prime for lots of comedy and hi-jinx, just not the type that I enjoy. Hana-Kimi really surprised me. It plays the comedy aspect well, but it’s not the focus of the story. It’s really about the characters and the love triangle the is created by Mizuki’s presence.

I really liked the characters in this story. Mizuki Ashiya is very earnest about just wanting to see Izumi Sano do the high jump in person. She isn’t clumsy or dizty, though she does get a little emotional for the boy she’s supposed to be. I liked that she didn’t go into this already having feelings for Sano, and that her feelings grow slowly from wanting to be friends with him to wanting to always be with him. It was a very natural progression. It’s obvious that Mizuki thought things through before coming to the school and had reasons why she couldn’t do some things, like swimming, so her excuses didn’t sound half-hazard or unlikely.

Izumi Sano is the sullen, quiet type. It takes some time for him to warm up to Mizuki, and then he figures out she’s a girl, and things take a turn for him. He doesn’t turn her in, but instead starts to work at doing the high jump again. He almost never lets on to her that he knows, but he becomes very protective of her. I like how he continues to relate to her like she’s a boy, but inside has to struggle with his own growing feelings for her. Shoichi Nakatsu is very much the comedy relief and third side to this love triangle, even if he doesn’t completely realize it yet. He was immediately attracted to Mizuki, but has not idea that “he” is a she. He feels a lot of confusion over it, and even starts to wonder if he might not be gay. This struggle is handled humorously, and made more funny to the reader because we know he’s not.

Rounding out the supporting cast is Doctor Umeda, who works in the school infirmary and really is a gay man. He knows Mizuki’s secret, as does his sister, Io, both of whom have promised to keep it. Minami Nanba, Mizuki’s Dorm R.A., is Umeda’s nephew and a ladies man who doesn’t know her secret. Kagurazaka is Sano’s rival in the high jump, and starts out being very obnoxious, but turns out to be not so bad, just very needling. I really like the entire cast of the series. They are all fun and interesting to follow.

The many of the stories are typical of a cross-dressing and high school title. Mizuki is constantly getting into situations where she could be found out, such as with Doctor Umeda and her brother coming to visit her. She is bullied for becoming the school’s new “idol”, and is asked for advise by a potential rival for Sano’s affection. But despite how common place a lot of the story lines have become, they didn’t feel that way here. I enjoyed all of the chapters, probably because there isn’t a lot going that seems unreasonable or over the top. So many of the characters reactions seem plausible and reasonable that it’s easy to believe they could happen. Nakatsu thinking he gay for being attracted to Mizuki, other people thinking Sano is gay for his overprotectiveness towards Mizuki after he learns her secret. Io pointing out to Mizuki she’s not going to be able to keep the charade for long as body matures. These things gave the story a ring of reality to it, making it so much more enjoy.

I found Hana-Kimi to a charming series so far. I really enjoyed the characters and the stories were fun, and for the most part, light. It does have its serious moments, and towards the end the of third volume it got a little dramatic, but not enough to change the tone of the series. The humor still prevails overall. I also liked how the issues of homosexuality were used and portrayed. It isn’t ignored or glossed over. Mizuki gets very upset when some boys say Sano must be for like her, and Dr. Umeda is very open and honest about his preference. The characters reactions rang true to me. I hope Viz continues to put out these omnibus editions. It was easy to hold and read and it a great price point. I can’t wait for the next volume!

Manga Wrap Up Week Twelve: Honey and Clover Volume 9-10

I’m working to get back on schedule after my 2 week manga break. I decided to take it easy and finish up a couple of Shojo Beat titles that I’ve only have the last few volumes left to read. Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles are two titles I associate together, since they started in Shojo Beat very close together. I enjoyed reading both in the magazine, and decided to continue getting the volumes after the Shojo Beat was canceled. They both went 10 volumes, but I only have the ones starting after the end of the magazine. I’m only going to talk about Honey and Clover here, and will give Sand Chronicles its own review, for reasons that should become clear.

I had previously reviewed Volume 8, which I really liked. The unicorns that stood guard over Yamada’s virginity were hilarious! And that was one of the things I really liked about Honey and Clover; it had its share of drama, punctuated with moments of humor. A lot of that light-heartedness disappears in these last two volumes. An event at the beginning of volume 9 really changes the tone, and most of the rest of the chapters revolve around resolving this one event. There is some tying up of loose ends. It’s finally revealed why Morita needed all that money. Hagu finally resolves the Morita and Takemoto triangle by turning it into a polygon, and like most of the characters, I didn’t see that turn coming.

I wouldn’t say the story ended with a happy ending, but it was satisfying enough. I didn’t feel cheated or that anything was left hanging. Relationships were resolved, or left unresolved as the case may be, as were the character’s personal stories. This is the end of the a chapter in this particular group’s life, and it made sense to end the series here as well. After following these characters for 8 volumes, you would think the coming end would elicit some sort of emotional response though the last two.

But to be honest, I didn’t really feel anything. As I read through these last two volumes, I felt kind of “So, this is the end.” After caring about these characters and following their stories for so long, I’m not sure why I felt so little about them going their separate ways. I think maybe it’s because so much of the last two volumes focused on Morita and Hagu and not so much on the others. It was the ensemble cast that I really liked about this series, and not the individuals so much. When that interaction was lost, so was my interest. It was a good closing chapter on the lives of these young people. It just didn’t affect me much. Would it also be heartless to say the whole situation with Hagu didn’t really upset me? The whole thing felt contrived, and may have contributed to my lack of feeling.

Sand Chronicles is a completely different story. For good or for ill, that story has stuck with me much more than Honey and Clover. It has made me cry on more than one occasion, and for all that I decry melodrama, this is one melodrama that I will read again. This is why the final three volumes need a post of their own.

My next series will be Antique Gift Shop, a manwha from Ice Kiun/Yen Press. It’s ten volumes and will free up a lot of space on my bookshelf, which I desperately need. I also have to find some time to read for the next MMF, which as just been decided to be on the SigIkki line from Viz. I have several volumes from that line that I’ve been meaning to read/review, and this is the perfect motivation to get me to do so.

  • Honey and Clover Volume 9-10
  • Sand Chronicles Volume 8-10
  • Yen Plus March 2012

Oresama Teacher Volume 4

Troublemaking student council chairman Hanabusa thinks the best way to solve the problem of two similar clubs at school is to have them fight to the death! Actually, the losers just have to disband their club. But a silly club rivalry quickly gets out of hand when Mafuyu is kidnapped by the enemy!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: ISBN: 1-4215-3866-0
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Oresama Teacher succeeds in turning out another uneven volume. A fun chapter is sandwiched between two less-interesting ones. Even though the first chapter does have some good moments, they aren’t enough to tip the balance completely.

Mafuyu and Hasakaya, as the new formed “Public Morals” Club goes up against the Yojimbo Club, as their charters claim to do the same thing. This chapter sees the return of Nastuo-Mafuyu, as she tries to get Hakasaya to learn to dodge hits in a fight. While I didn’t care very much for these chapters, they did have their moments. Hakasaya and Nastuo-Mafuyu have a good heart-to-heart talk, and Mafuyu comes to understand Hakasaya better. It was nice to see Hakasaya show that he cares about Mafuyu, even if it means doing something dumb. But that’s what we expect from the good guys, right?

Yuto, the second from Mafuyu’s old gang comes to visit Mafuyu and deliver some treats made by them. He meets up with Hakasaya and the Bancho, and they try to find Mafuyu, and consequently miss each other for pretty much the entire story. What was really funny was the misunderstandings that went on between Yuto and Hakasaya and Bancho over who Mafuyu really was. Yuto has all of his memories of Mafuyu (slightly rose-tinted) as a demon fighter, while Hakasaya and Bancho think of her as a weak girl. The chapters were funny and the best of the chapter.

The volume ends with Takeomi needed to blow off steam from work, and drags Mafuyu off to the beach with him. This chapter felt rather odd to me. If this is supposed to be a teacher/student relationship story, it’s going at it in a really strange way. Takeomi and Mafuyu looked more like friends, or even siblings. I didn’t feel any kind of connection between them beyond their past. I’m still not sure what to think about Mafuyu’s missing memories of Takeomi.

I’m still teetering on the fence with this series. It has shown it can be a really funny series, but only if it can keep the focus on the students and their relationships. I still really enjoy Mafuyu and Hakasaya’s relations, and Bancho needs more page time with Mafuyu. I still detest Takeomi. He still doesn’t seem to have a good reason to become a teacher. He’s still too much of a delinquent to be an interesting character for me. The other “villains” in this series, such as the Student Council President is the same. So, the good and bad points of Oresama Teacher are about even at this point, but it’s still not a series I want to keep or re-read.

Oresama Teacher Volume 2

Mafuyu’s plan to be an ordinary student seems to be working out so far. She’s got a friend (Hayasaka) and a plan to join a totally normal school club (crafts). But homeroom teacher Mr. Takaomi has something different in mind—he wants Mafuyu to take down the notorious leader of the campus gang!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I really didn’t care for the first volume of Oresama Teacher. While it had its moments, I thought they weren’t enough to overcome the parts I didn’t like. But I went ahead and checked out a few more volumes. I started to see some potential in volume 2 as the story revolved more around Mafuyu and Hayasaka.

I really enjoyed this second volume, which came as a big surprise to me. I was expecting to see more of Takaomi abusing Mafuyu, but Takaomi was just a side character.  Instead there was more interaction between Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and the introduction of Kyoutaro, the school Bancho. Hayasaka and Mafuyu’s search for a club to join so they could avoid Takaomi was funny. I loved the Craft club, which was filled with Macho men who looked straight of Fist of the North Star or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. I know it’s becoming cliché, but I couldn’t stop laughing at seeing the big, muscular men embroidering and making stuffed animals. Their pressuring to get Hayasaka to join, who turned out to be surprisingly good at embroidery just made that chapter one of the best in this series so far.

Kyoutaro was amusing too. He acts tough and loves to fight, but has a soft side. He loves a children’s show, Nekomata and it self-titled main character. The day Mafuyu spends with Kyoutaro was just a lot of fun to read. The reveal at the end of the chapter was great and has a lot of potential for the future.

Hayasaka’s denseness knows no bounds. He searches for Usa-chanman and eventually figures out that she is Mafuyu, but is easily tricked out of it again. His denseness might annoy me, if he wasn’t such a great match for Mafuyu. But now Mafuyu has a good reason to keep her identity a secret from him. She wants to be friends, not idolized by Hayasaka because of her fighting ability. So she has to keep it a secret. This means then that she has to come up with another disguise, a boy named Natsuo, who Hayasaka treats as peer instead of an idol. I liked this second disguise. Mafuyu looks better as Natsuo than as herself!

I still dislike Takaomi. While his scenes are kept to a minimum this volume, his plan for Mafuyu is revealed and it’s typical of a low-life punk. He intends to use Mafuyu and Hanasaka to help him win a bet with the School President. So he’s still complete slime, but with less of his slimy trail in the title and the addition of the Bancho actually got me feeling more upbeat about Oresama Teacher. I just might change my mind about it.

Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura Volume 1

Sakura is the granddaughter of a mysterious moon princess who slew demons with her Blood Cherry Blossom sword. All her life Sakura has been forbidden to look at the full moon without knowing why. Then one night, unhappy over her impending marriage, Sakura gazes up at the moon, only to see a demon attacking her…

Continue reading Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura Volume 1